Friday Aug 31, 2007

RSS Feeds: This might be important after all

I'm still in the funny videos frame of mind (see my previous entry). However, the video included in this entry includes some how-to info that was really useful to me (not just funny).

First of all, let me say that the info is more useful if you use Firefox as your browser and/or Thunderbird as your mail client,  but not necessarily. I have sort of understood the RSS thing and the blog feed thing and stuff like that. However, I'm glad I watched the video and implemented the steps because now I'm REALLY starting to understand it and I can see why I should care about this feed stuff.

Below, I'm including the URL field of a Firefox browser that you would see when visiting this blog (the blog you're reading right now). Blogs generally have feeds available, so that little orange square shows up to let you know that feeds are available. You can do a lot of things with those feeds. For example, you can retrieve them as bookmarks or you can add them to your Thunderbird mail client and have them show up in the Folder pane of the Thunderbird interface. Next thing you know, your reading your favorite blogs right from your email. The best thing is that you can add a blogfeed (either as a bookmark or a email "folder") and then you can get the last 30 entries for that blog listed all nice and neat.

 The URL field of a Firefox browser

Click that orange button and you'll be presented with a couple of options, as such:

  • Subscribe to 'Recent Entries (Atom)'
  • Subscribe to 'Recent Comments (Atom)'

If you select Subscribe to 'Recent Entries (Atom),' the first thing to notice is that the URL changes to the following: http://blogs.sun.com/JohnD/feed/entries/atom

The above URL is the feed to my blog. In some cases you'll want to copy that URL. However, you'll also notice that the web page changed when you clicked the "Subscribe..." button. At the top of the new page you are presented with options. For those options, you don't need to copy the URL.

You have the option of adding that feed as a Live Bookmark right in your Firefox browser or you can add it to another blog reader. The blog readers available at the moment are Google Reader, Bloglines, and My Yahoo. In Firefox, after you add the bookmark (let's say you add it directly in your toolbar), you can then move the arrow over the bookmark to see a list of the 30 most recent entries.

If you want to add the feed to Thunderbird as a mail folder, you can do the following:

  1. Copy the feed, such as http://blogs.sun.com/JohnD/feed/entries/atom.
  2. Go to Thunderbird.
  3. Select File>New>Account.
  4. In the Account Wizard, select RSS News & Blogs.
  5. Scroll down the Folders pane and click the RSS News & Blogs option.
  6. Click Manage subscriptions
  7. In the dialog box, click Add
  8. In the Feed URL field, paste the URL you have saved.
  9. Click OK

 The feed to that blog should show up under the RSS News & Blogs heading. You can click the blog name to see the 30 most recent entries listed just as emal messages are normally listed. Click an entry to have it appear in the window below where you normally read messages.

With the instructions above and the video that I've linked to out on YouTube, it should be semi clear. And if you're smarter than I, it might be very clear. I suppose it's actually quite simple, I just had to concentrate quite a bit while watching the video. I also had to review a few parts like 5 times until I finally got it. Hey, but that's me. With the instructions I've added above, hopefully things are easier.

Monday Jul 30, 2007

Search heals all wounds!

I think the title of this entry might be a good goal. Most definitely, at this point in time, search does not heal all wounds. Some would argue that search adds salt to wounds and grinds it in with great glee. But darn it anyways, I'm driven to figure this search thing out at Sun. I want to figure out what search can do for us now and how we can make it even better. I see a world where Sun customers come to Sun Microsystems sites and search across media types and pages, finding exactly what they need and very quickly: be it in a document, blog, article, screencast, or what have you? I won't say I have a dream, but I have a vision, anyway.

My last entry, Searching for stuff on Sun sites, though brilliant, didn't cover the nitty gritty of performing searches at Sun. This entry isn't going to do that either. Truth is I don't know the nitty gritty. I have learned a thing or two since that last entry.

What have I learned about search at Sun? Well, by reading the help at the docs.sun.com (DSC) site and at the Sun Search site I learned that the two sites handle search pretty differently. The key difference is that the two searches use different Boolean methods as illustrated below:

  • Sun Search: Please note that the default search is based on a Boolean AND; that is, results that are returned contain all of the search terms you entered.
  • DSC: The search is based on a Boolean OR, meaning that any of the specified search terms can be present in the documents that are returned in the search results.

I'm sure there's great wisdom involved in why these two searches at Sun are using different methods. To me, the difference seems ridiculous, but that's because I'm rather simple and can't see the grand design of such matters. When the pure intelligence of it is revealed to me, I'll let you know, too.

Anyway, I think that Sun Search really is a great tool for searching across media types. I highly recommend it. And I am hopeful that we can make it even better.

Wednesday Jul 25, 2007

Searching for stuff on Sun sites

Fellow Sun identity writer Michael Teger, has just added a nice blog entry, Searching Collections on docs.sun.com.

This seems like a good time to point out some other search tricks. Hopefully, I can learn some, too, cuz I can just sense it: there's more to know about searching Sun sites than I've yet to learn.

The site http://docs.sun.com/ (DSC) is new and improved. It's faster anyway. In most ways the search is better, too. But as Michael points out, searching collections is not available in the same way it used to be. Now, it can be done as a workaround, which Michael provides. Also noteworthy is the fact that DSC provides a link to Search Tips.

There are few nuggets of information in the tips. For example, Michael provided this example for a search: "Access Manager 7.1" load balancer. You could type this instead: "Access Manager 7.1" | load balancer. The pipe symbol, "|" doesn't get you that much since the search results look exactly the same through several pages of the search results. However, the search with the pipe symbol has 206 results while the search without the pipe symbol has 43,085. The pipe symbol means that you are first searching for docs with "Access Manager 7.1," then you're working from those results to search for "load balancer." This might not matter since the first 20 pages or so of these two searches are probably giving the exact same results. However, it's nice to know that there are only 206 results that are relevant to your search instead of over 43,000.

A couple of other tricks are that you can search in titles only and you can use wildcards (\* and ?) in your search. For this information, check out the search tips in Chapter 2.

Better yet, you can search beyond docs.sun.com. You can search all of Sun. Sometimes, that's better and sometimes it's not. Anyway, this can be extremely useful information. Here it is: SunSearch.

Why is this important? Because with SunSearch you can also search forums, blogs, articles, etc. It's very powerful. If this information isn't in docs, it might still be somewhere within the various sun sites. Using the example that Michael provided, I want to search on SunSearch. However, I'll add the pipe symbol to see what happens: "Access Manager 7.1" | load balancer.

The results on SunSearch are not exactly clear to me. To me it doesn't seem that the pipe symbol works and the number of results seems quite low compared to searching DSC. However, the tabs shown at the top are very useful. The default tab is All Results, which might provide too much info. The Community tab is good because it searches blogs, forums, and articles. For this search, at this time, I see 7 results in the Community tab. Seven results is quite manageable. The following image shows this search. Notice the pipe symbol is included. I tried the search without the pipe symbol and the results were the same.

A screen shot of SunSearch: Okay, so I don't get all the nuances. If anyone understands these nuances, such as why the number of results is relatively low, please do explain. All the same, this seems to make it easier to search for a topic across media types and such all over Sun.


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